IDing COVID-19 variant travels to Minnesota, enough genetic material | News
For health officials, finding out which strain of COVID-19 is on a test isn’t a quick and easy process, involving a trip to Minnesota and the need for enough genetic material to sequence, according to the department’s medical director of Arkansas Health for vaccinations. Dr. Jennifer Dillaha.
First, the test must be sent to the Ministry of Health, and it must be a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, used to detect the genetic material of a particular organism, “to be sequenced”, said Dillaha.
“We cannot sequence antigen tests,” also known as rapid diagnostic tests that detect different proteins on the surface of the coronavirus, she said.
The PCR test “the sample is sent to Little Rock for the local health unit, then we run them on our PCR machines, and if it is a positive test, we send the sample to the laboratory of Minnesota Public Health and they are sequencing it for us,” Dillaha said.
“The PCR test by itself will not tell you what the sequence is. You need to have a certain amount of genetic material from the test to be able to do the sequencing, so we never send the last one. We send those who meet the criteria of having enough genetic material.
The PCR test turnaround time for getting the results varies, according to Dillaha, depending on whether the courier is on time and where the Minnesota lab is located to run the tests when they arrive. She said it usually takes a few weeks to get the results from the sequencing and that includes transit time and the time it takes to process the sample and bring it back to the health department.
The turnaround time for PCR test results once they arrive at the Minnesota lab is currently 24 hours, according to ADH spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill.